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News + Views
New Professionals Day 2012 Tags: cilipnpd12 new professionals cilip


On Friday 11th May I attended the 2012 New Professionals Day organised by CILIP, a day for anyone new to the profession to learn, network, be inspired, and eat burritos. There was a fantastic mix of people there; I met one other person who, like me, was just entering the profession but hadn't yet begun, along with current graduate trainees, library assistants, librarians, information assistants, students, people returning to the profession or moving from very different sectors.

The key speakers were all fantastic, as were the workshops, and I would highly recommend the day to anyone thinking of attending in the future.  There were so many great ideas to come out of the day that I couldn't possibly list them all so I thought I'd do a brief summary.


Key Speakers

Ned Potter is well known to a lot of people already, but as this is the first library event I've attended this was the first time I've had the opportunity to attend one of his talks.  He really is as good as the rumours would have you believe - engaging, funny, thought-provoking but not in a dominating/preachy way, I found his talk incredibly interesting and could certainly have listened to more. The central theme of Ned's talk was DON'T PANIC!!!  Speaking about your 'brand', Ned let us know that - we already have a brand, and we have no control over it....but remember, DON'T PANIC!!!  For me, the key things I took from his talk were:

  • Learning that your brand is essentially "what people say about you when you're not in the room".
  • When considering if you need to develop a 'brand' for yourself, consider what you want to achieve.
  • Find out what your ideal employer cares about and extract the parts of your experience that match this.
  • Match your brand to your path!
  • Don't worry about that others are doing - it's unlikely this will be relevant to your goals
  • A successful brand is a by-product of your goals being developed (in a networked way)
  • You should be an open resource - nothing is gained by keeping this you develop secret - Be part of the community!
  • Get online (control what people find, interact - have conversations, be useful and interesting)
  • If you're not sure you should put something online - imagine your boss is reading it!
  • Link all your social media together
  • You can create a brand by publishing something, organising something, sharing something, presenting something.
The clear advice from Ned is that, you don't need to do all these things, they're just possible paths.  The main this is that you should "Just do something...Anything!".
I personally found this talk incredibly uplifting and optimistic, there were many useful suggestions on things you could do and how you could get more involved.
You can see more details of Ned's talk over at his blog.
Bethan Ruddock spoke in the afternoon about developing your new professionals toolkit.  She highlighted five key aspects to your kit that you need to develop: a network, a mentor, resources, a plan, and a voice.
It was great to hear different ways of developing a network for yourself, not just online but in person.  This can be done with your colleagues and through professional associations as well as through social media.  Bethan gave some fantastic resources and ideas but the thing that stuck out for me (which I will be doing as soon as possible) is working out your plan.  Bethan suggested the way to do this is to look at where you are now, where you want to go, and how you get there.  One of the best ways she highlighted to do this is to give yourself a skills audit to work out all the things you already do.  A lot of the themes in Bethan's talk were reaffirming the things we'd heard from Ned in the morning, so it's important to re-emphasise them and say, don't get hung up on other people's achievements - look at what you're doing and what you can achieve.
Phil Bradley's talk was the final one of the day, and I think it's safe to say it was, for some people, the most terrifying.  The scope of social networks he presented to us was astonishing and I think more then many people realised existed. But if we brush aside the fear, he made some interesting points:
  • As information professionals we must use social networks.  We work with information, and social networks are information!
  • You need to change your fear of things online into curiosity.
  • There is too much information online and that is why it is important to develop our own networks, so we can learn from they and they from us.



We had the opportunity to attend three workshops on the day and there were too many great ones to choose from.  I ended up only being allocated one of my top choices (Special Collections) but the workshops I was assigned were incredibly interesting and gave me a lot to think about.  I've given a little break down of some key thoughts:


Moving sectors: Practical pathways to a different role - Five key stages towards working in your preferred environment; 

The first workshop I attended gave a real insight into the many different sectors you can work in and Adjoa Boateng who gave the workshop seemed to have worked in them all.  She guided us through how you might move from one sector to another and how surprised you'd be at how easy it is.  Many of the skills needed are highly transferable and we looked at ways of developing skills you may be lacking (such as through volunteering or CPD).  A really interesting workshop!

Special collections librarianship: What's it all about?

This was really the highlight of my day, for totally selfish reasons I loved this workshop!  Special collections hold a real interest for me and it was good to hear how competitive the job market is in this area.  I'm not sure yet what direction my career will take and am of course open to change, but for now I am continuing my career plan along the lines of working with (or in the near vicinity to) special collections.  I think this explains why I'm totally biased in loving this workshops.  Katie gave us a real understanding of what exactly constitutes  'Special Collections' and I think it may have surprised some people that it wasn't just old manuscripts and pretty pictures!

I would highly recommend you head over to Katie's Blog where she has put up various resources from the day.  The main thing I have taken from this is that if I want to go more towards working within a special collection that handles manuscripts, I'd better brush up on my rather dodgy Latin, and in fact, grab some knowledge of Ancient Greek!  Eek!  But more importantly I learnt how wide the scope of special collections is and how much this area is still progressing and expanding.


A career in corporate libraries: The pitfalls and the profits

I'm probably not the best person to ask about my last workshop of the day, on working in corporate libraries, as this is not an area I have any real interest in.  Which is a shame because the two presenters were absolutely fantastic and the information they gave invaluable.  Those in the workshop who did have a real interest in corporate library careers seemed very engaged with the topics discussed and I think everyone got a lot out of it.  Interesting to learn was that you do not need a specialist degree to work in a corporate library, but you do need a lot of awareness of the subject knowledge related to the company you work for.


Overall the day was fantastic, the only downside for me is that there wasn't more opportunity to chat to people, which I think was jointly the fault of the time (large conferences over several days lend themselves better to networking then short one day events) and of space (after eating my massive burrito I was just starting a conversation with someone new when I was asked to move on to allow other people to sit down and eat).  But that is a very minor complaint on what was a well put together and thought-provoking day.  Well done to everyone involved in the organisation and running of the whole event.

Mini Library Camp in Manchester #libcampnw Tags: #libcampnw library camp

Last Saturday I went to Libcampnw, the first mini library camp in Manchester. I was involved in the organisation of it, working with Sue (@shedsue) and Richard (@richardveevers). I think it was a great success, and I enjoyed the planning process as well as the event itself. Thanks to both Sue and Richard, the people at Madlab (who, thanks to Sue’s persuasive skills, gave us the venue for free), and also all the participants and session facilitators for making it so good! The photos that were taken with my camera are on Facebook. The event wiki with session notes and more is on wikispaces.

I have been speaking to some work colleagues and we are thinking of hosting a mini library camp in Leeds. Who would be interested to come, and would you prefer a Thursday or a Saturday? Also, who would be interested in a mini library camp just for public library people (and those passionate about public libraries)? Can you offer a free venue for up to 50 people?

The following are my notes from the day. If you haven’t been to a library camp or un-conference before, here’s a link to explain a little what happens:

Session 1: Central library vs. branch libraries, pitched by @theatregrad

  • library resources: where do they do the most good? In a branch library or in a central location -> depends on the resource and how it can be shared. Can it be cost-effective and is it affordable?
  • is it “better” to close a branch library instead of refurbishing it -> look at opening times that accommodate the community, where does the money some from (can funding be sought)
  • some public library users in the group felt that their local authority needed to be better at communicating/explaining their decisions, to be more open and take public’s needs into consideration
  • do we actually know why people use the library, what they come for?
  • do we see the library as a community space, with an important social aspect? -> harder for a central/city centre library to be a community space as community is not clearly defined
  • central expertise needs to spread into branch libraries -> more travel, outreach, road shows
  • branches need to be tailored to their community, not just be a scaled down version of central library
  • statistcs don’t prove the social aspect -> it becomes harder to prove need of the space -> think homeless newspaper readers in a central library
  • Manchester is currently restructuring to be able to offer bespoke service to branch libraries -> great idea, I would like to know more!
  • to get use out of your libraries’ online resources you need to train your (potential) users
  • does  central library have the same training potential as a branch library that can adapt services to their community -> maybe not, also because not everybody can get there
  • central library very much a prestige thing
  • central library can be very intimidating for (new) users -> old buildings create barriers but there is also potential here: get people in for the historical aspect
  • signage is very important! also: should library staff wear uniforms? -> Bolton have abolished uniforms because of cost cuttings -> staff not always obvious enough to users though and users might walk out unsatisfied
  • install confidence in your users by helping them, training them -> train your staff first, so they can help people
  • the digital future: who gets excluded and how can libraries work on inclusion?
  • digital libraries mainly aimed at Windows users -> do libraries have to staff expertise to change this?
  • some library authorities, e.g Trafford, looking at uploading content on to people’s devices -> looking forward to hearing more
  • other services ideas: tech support desk, music practice rooms -> get people to come to the library for un-library stuff! Be the living room of your city!
  • shared services, e.g. share with registry office
  • use of volunteers: volunteers need to enhance not replace -> what does a volunteer coordinator do?

Session 2: Public reference libraries – keep or abolish?, pitched by me

  • the reference library as a physical space -> stepping into the past: positive when managed and stocked well -> can be a sacred space
  • stock is often things that are not online, specialised, tactile
  • another important use: local knowledge, community information, community services = local reference
  • need to use the space to its best: e.g. run workshops, offer space to community groups
  • work with other groups, promote other uses, .e.g. eco-literacy
  • non-fiction reading groups
  • business use: patents, IP, inventors
  • example: Sheffield references library also includes art, music and social sciences stock, not just information generally
  • some public libraries do not have a separate reference department now: reference stock is shelved within non-fiction lending stock
  • try and get hold of university’s and college’s reading lists -> promote the stock that you hold that could be useful for students -> e.g. via twitter
  • hold events
  • have expert staff!
  • library staff who don’t normally work in the reference library can be apprehensive when asked to work there -> fear of not knowing -> training needed
  • encourage studying
  • promote digital literacy -> great idea, would like to explore further
  • experience: not enough demand for specialised sessions, apart from IP
  • often what is classed as reference stock would be more useful to the public as lending stock -> what do you do about that? Is price the main reason to make something a reference copy now? -> stock criteria/strategy seem to differ in different authorities
  • online resources only get used when enough training is offered, to both public and staff -> reassure people it’s okay not to know things
  • why not run workshops on content creation -> for campaigns, fundraising, links with local groups -> e.g. Sheffield Access Space
  • take the reference library elsewhere -> pop-up libraries, road shows, take iPads and stock to events to show -> great idea, would like to explore further
  • need to market services within building and library service first -> surprising how little other staff know -> look into staff exchanges
  • the group liked the idea of embedded librarians but we weren’t quite sure what it means -> anyone?

Session 3: Staff training, pitched by me

  • problem with training budgets: often if you can’t afford it yourself you can’t go
  • learn from other people/colleagues, shadowing
  • focus on training and training needs in appraisals -> try and fit your needs into strategic plans to get what you want
  • take an organisational development approach, rather than a personal one
  • take people’s outside interests into consideration -> your staff might know things that are useful for the service but that you don’t know about
  • staff time -> think about benefits to organisation, contacts made, change something as a result of training attended -> cascade your knowledge
  • benefit from in-house training, cross-sector approach and regional training offers
  • offer a venue and let trainers come to you -> cost savings
  • get involved with professional organisations, network!
  • prioritise
  • go for bursaries -> not a lot of people do, so lots up for grabs
  • convince managers that your staff need training -> don’t wait for them to come to you!

Session 4: The little things, pitched by @spoontragedy

This was a session about everything, from toilets via signage to mentoring.

  • public buildings should open up their toilets
  • people’s behaviour turns others off from using the library -> keep them in check -> get a full-time caretaker
  • keep the social aspect of libraries in mind
  • think about what is needed when extending opening hours: bins, more toilet roll, etc.
  • user complaints often carry more weight than staff comments
  • communication!
  • what do you call your users? -> university community, readers, borrowers, users, customers, ladies, patrons
  • Teesside University library has no access restrictions -> great idea for sharing services
  • jargon/terminology -> needs to be useful/relevant to system user
  • strategic plans vs. day-to-day operations
  • ideal: bosses with open-door policy -> often people still won’t talk because they see status before person -> your director is human
  • two-way communication important -> it’s okay to tell you boss stuff
  • make an appointment with whoever you want to speak to
  • mentor someone to learn about management and being in that position (small scale)

Some other bits from sessions I overheard:

  • frontline staff are regarded as “librarians” -> does the public need to know job roles? Does it matter?
  • take ownership of what you do!
  • management want to push content but be in control at the same time -> difficult position for staff to be in when updating websites etc.
  • all you need for a successful library camp is running water, a toilet and ideally wifi -> do it!

Note: I first published this on my own blog.

I regularly blog at

Why the 2nd job you ever get in libraries may be the most important of your career Tags: LIS careers

Reproduced from here because it's particularly relevant for New Profs...


I have a theory: I think the 2nd job you ever get in libraries is the most important. We’ll come on to the why in a minute – first of all I wanted to see if others’ experiences backed up my hypothesis. I put a poll on to Twitter, asking this:

Which job was most significant in getting you to where you are in libraries now? Which most influenced you onto your current path?

I didn’t want to prejudice the outcome so I didn’t mention my theory. The results were interesting – they did seem to (just!) back me up:


36% said 2nd job, 34% said 1st job
Turns out spelling the word 'job' correctly 5 times is beyond me

Now, this is a very specific question. I’m not asking which factor is most significant to where people are now (a lot of people would say professional development outside of their 9-to-5 jobs, or their Masters perhaps) and I’m not asking which job is the most important in terms of people being in the information profession at all (presumably that’d be the first job for the vast majority of people) – it’s all about where you are, the path you’re on, the area of librarianship you’ve ended up in or the role you’re currently doing.

So I believe the 2nd job you ever get in libraries is arguably the most important because it dictates much SO of what happens to you afterwards. Obviously all jobs have an effect on what comes after them to some extent, but the 2nd job is something of a tipping point whose significance is, I’d imagine, not appreciated at the time most people are applying for it. Most people’s first library jobs fall into one of two categories – securing an entry-level position prior to doing the Masters (or becoming a graduate trainee), or securing an entry-level position because you’ve sort of stumbled into libraries accidently, and then finding it was a lot more interesting than you thought, so you stay in the sector. As has been discussed before, almost no first library jobs are beyond the entry-level – even people who have the Masters have to start at or near the bottom.

So – as a result of this, there’s not much proactive career choice about your first library job: you just need a job. Most people start as something like a ‘Library assistant’ – often a customer facing role, in the library itself, issuing books and helping with queries etc. You only really start to mould you career when you apply for that 2nd job – and my argument is that you need to make a really sound choice here, because it has a vital domino effect on your subsequent career. And actually, it’s tricky to divert off the path you choose for yourself at that 2nd job choice, because the 3rd job will (probably) be a higher up or better or related version of that 2nd job and (probably) pretty good, meaning you build a career off the back of it.

I’m obviously generalising here, and of course there will be exceptions – and throughout I’m imagining someone staying in more or less the same place, rather than having accrued several jobs at the same level on their CV simply because they’ve relocated a few times. But generally speaking, if you’re in that position that so many of us were in – you’re in your first library role, thinking it’s actually pretty good, wondering about making it into a career – you need to think carefully about the path you choose and, not least, how long that path is in reality.

I’ll take the academic library as an example, because that’s what I know best. Your first role was in Lending Services on the desk, so where do you go next? If you choose to stay in Customer Services then you’re looking at a Reference / Enquiries Desk role perhaps, otherwise there’s a big jump up to something like Customer Services Manager or Site Manager. If you go into the cataloguing side of things you could go for an Assistant Cataloguer post. You could try and move towards the subject librarian side of things by going for a Team Assistant post in an academic librarian subject team. Or there might be a ‘Digital Library Assistant’ type role, to do with digitisation or e-Resources. Whichever of these you choose, your 3rd job will probably also be in this area, is my point. And your 4th job too, perhaps. Of course people change all the time, but it’s quicker to develop a career in a roughly straight line. (I know this, because I didn’t - and have only in the last few months arrived at the job I actually wanted to do all along, and have much younger colleagues who took a more direct route…)

To use a building analogy – our 1st job in libraries is coming in through the front door. We can see a lot more now we’re inside, and we understand it more and want to stay. The second job is like choosing what floor to go to, and subsequent jobs tend to be a choice of doors on that floor. Of course it’s possible to change floors, but it often takes a lot of work… And we often just stay on that floor for ages becuase it’s naturally the floor we know most about.

Part of the reason I’m writing this is because I know some people who’ve been working in libraries a good while, and are just sort of treading water – because that second job took them down a path, and now that path is blocked for whatever reason. There just aren't any more senior jobs than they're already doing, in the area they've come to specialise in. So I’d recommend getting hold of one of those organisational structure charts for your library (or the library you’d like to work in) and literally plotting your ideal route upwards, seeing what’s feasible, where the obstacles are, when you’d be waiting an age for people to retire or leave, etc. Some paths have very few destinations so are more competitive. Some might not even exist by the time you get to the good bit. Some paths might look like their beyond you in terms of expertise, but actually you could get there over time. Some paths have loads of destinations but aren’t well paid. Money certainly isn’t everything, but progression means a lot – you don’t want to get stuck in a rut.

It would be nice just to live in the moment, just to ‘be’ and not worry about all this stuff. But librarianship is a hugely competitive profession, with far more qualified librarians than there are jobs for qualified librarians. So it’s really never too early to be thinking about the career path you’re embarking upon – ideally, you need to start making informed choices almost from the very start.

If you’ve made it through all that - do you agree with my 2nd Job Hypothesis?

- thewikiman



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